Biopics

The world was shocked when, after directing the biggest financial success of his career with The Hunger Games, Gary Ross decided to pass on making the sequel, Catching Fire. Does he hate money? No, it turns out he just hated the too-tight schedule the film has to work under due to its star Jennifer Lawrence’s other commitments. But, do you know who has no such qualms with churning out a Hunger Games sequel on a truncated timeline? I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence. It wasn’t long after Ross dropped out that he stepped in. Only time will tell if Ross was right and Lawrence is stepping into a poisonous situation with Catching Fire; once the second film comes out, we’ll just compare who did the better work. But news that broke today hints at the possibility that Ross and Lawrence might soon be competing for our hearts and minds with more than just their individual takes on Hunger Games material; they might soon be earning comparisons to one another because of dueling Houdini biopics as well.

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While it was generally always assumed that Marvel would be doing a sequel of their Captain America film after their super hero team-up project The Avengers got out of the way, it was only recently that the film was made official. Marvel Studios announced that they’re looking to give us the second installment of the star-spangled super hero’s adventures come April 4, 2014, and a short list of possible directors who may take on the project included names like Community directors Joe and Anthony Russo, The Adjustment Bureau director George Nolfi, and Law Abiding Citizen director F. Gary Gray. Short as that list is, today a news report from Deadline Watts has made it even shorter. It turns out F. Gary Gray can no longer be considered a front runner to get the Captain America job, because he’s just signed on to make a biopic of the legendary rap group N.W.A. instead. Calling back to one of the group’s most famous releases, the film will be called Straight Outta Compton. Set up by N.W.A. member turned actor Ice Cube’s production company Cube Vision, Straight Outta Compton is a story that details the formation of the seminal gangsta rap group, which, in addition to Cube, included Eazy-E, Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Dr. Dre (the one with the headphones, not the fat one from Who’s the Man?).

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Saving Mr. Banks is a Kelly Marcel-penned Black List script that details the 14 years it took Walt Disney to convince author P.L. Travers to give him the movie rights to her Mary Poppins character. The result of the lengthy courtship was, of course, the Julie Andrews-starring 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins. That movie has made Disney a whole lot of money over the years, so it makes sense that they would be looking to produce any sort of acclaimed script that manages to cash in on Poppins’ mainstream name recognition; especially one that features their company’s founder, Walt Disney, as the main character. To that end, Disney has acquired Marvel’s script and hired The Blind Side helmer John Lee Hancock to direct. That’s all old news though. The new news about this project is that casting has started, and they’re looking at some pretty huge names to play Disney and Travers. According to Variety, Hancock and company are talking to none other than Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson to fill the roles. Just let that sink in for a moment — Tom Hanks may play Walt Disney in a movie about the making of Mary Poppins. Have you ever heard of anything that will make a more violent grab for the hearts and wallets of everyone’s parents and grandparents than that?

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Those who have seen his work as Omar Little on The Wire or as Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire know that actor Michael K. Williams is an amazing talent, and probably one of the most badass performers working in the business. There are few actors able to craft characters who are so nuanced, so interesting, and yet so completely iconic in their overpowering cool. So it’s with unbridled enthusiasm that we should react to the latest news about his career, news that’s so epic it even trumps the time he started doing guest spots on Community. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Williams is set to star in a movie called Dirty White Boy, which is a biopic of the late Russell Jones, aka Big Baby Jesus, aka Osirus, aka Dirt McGirt, aka The Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Perhaps right now you’re thinking to yourself that ODB was certainly dirty (and stinkin’), but in no way was he ever a white boy. So what the heck is the title of this movie referring to? Well, apparently Dirty White Boy focuses on the last few years of ODB’s life, the time between his imprisonment and his death, when he struck up an unlikely friendship/partnership with a 22-year-old VH1 production assistant named Jarred Weisfeld. Despite a lack of experience, Weisfeld was able to hustle his way into becoming ODB’s manager while he was still in jail, and then became the driving force of his musical comeback after release.

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Fear not Harry Potter fans, it looks like we’ve finally found a promising project for Rupert Grint. Over the past year or so we’ve been living in a post-Potter world, and Grint’s co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have been flourishing. It seems like rarely a week goes by without one or the other poking their head into a new project. Grint has had a bit tougher of a time landing significant work so far, and things were starting to look a bit worrisome. But holy heck does this new film The Drummer sound like it could be a great chance for the young actor to show what he’s got apart from being Ron Weasley. Despite the fact that this one is from a writer/director duo that haven’t done much I’ve found noteworthy (Randall Miller and Jody Savin), The Drummer could be a winner just based on subject matter alone. It’s a look at the last few years of the life of Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson, when he was working on his solo album “Pacific Ocean Blue.” With the legions of Beach Boys fans still out there in the world, undoubtedly this is a project that will be getting a lot of attention, especially when you consider the cast that Grint will be joining.

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Since we first heard about director Sacha Gervasi’s (Anvil!: The Story of Anvil) upcoming look at the life and work of legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, quite a bit of important casting has seemingly gone down. Variety reports that not only are age-old rumblings of Anthony Hopkins being attached to play the title character still holding up, but also that Helen Mirren has signed on to play Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. That’s a lot of pedigree for one movie to have, both in cast and subject matter, but the news doesn’t stop there. Apparently the sweetest role in the pic is that of Janet Leigh, Hitchcock’s Psycho leading lady. Inside sources are saying that this is the sort of role that’s going to be grubbing for awards attention, like Michelle Williams’ turn as Marilyn Monroe did last year, and whoever lands it is bound to see their career get an uptick. So who’s getting the chance to play such a choice part? An actress who already has little trouble getting attention on her own, Scarlett Johansson.

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Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull has been trying to get his Here There Be Monsters project going for quite a while. It’s a story of his own creation that tells the tale of John Paul Jones’ life as a Revolutionary War-era Naval Captain, but with a twist. In this telling of Jones’ story, there are added giant sea monsters and the like. As if Jones’ exploits weren’t exciting enough already. In order to shepherd his dream to reality, Tull hired veteran screenwriter Brian Helgeland to get together a script, and he’s been searching around for a director as well. At one point it was looking like Robert Zemeckis might come on board, but that never came to fruition, and not much has been said about the film since. Hope is not lost for Tull and his dream of telling stories where historical figures grapple with giant squid, however, as someone close to the situation is telling Vulture that the project has new life.

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Sarah Jessica Parker

I’m not one to report on celebrity gossip, so I’m not going to get too much into what’s been going on with Demi Moore lately, but suffice to say, the lady is having some issues that have caused her to drop out of the Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace. She was set to play Gloria Steinem, who was a high profile feminist writer and political leader of the women’s lib movement in the 70s. Over the course of her career Steinem spoke out pretty regularly against the porn business, and in 1980 she wrote a piece for “Ms. Magazine” titled ‘The Real Linda Lovelace’ that acts as a framing device for Lovelace’s storytelling; so this should be a small but important role that’s going to require an experienced actress.

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James Franco

Robert Mapplethorpe was an openly homosexual, 60s era artist whose provocative work was very controversial in its time. So, of course, people have been saying for quite a while now that James Franco should play him in a movie. I mean, that’s kind of Franco’s bag, isn’t it? Johnny Depp puts on stupid wigs in Tim Burton movies and Franco plays historical gay figures from the 60s. It’s what we’ve become comfortable with, and what we will remain comfortable with, because THR is reporting that Franco is now finally attached to play Mapplethorpe in an upcoming film.

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In a recent E! article about the nudity that’s going to be on display in the upcoming, Amanda Seyfried-starring biopic of 70s porn star Linda Lovelace, Lovelace, one of the film’s producers, Patrick Muldoon, made some hilariously hypocritical comments that were clearly designed to drum up interest for the film based on promising Seyfried’s boobs, but which still try to paint the people making the movie as serious artists who would never do such a thing. He starts off the interview by promising that the film is going to be“very risqué,” but then adds out of the other side of his mouth that it’s also “not about the nudity.” It’s not about the nudity because, according to Muldoon, “it’s profound, the performance that she’s giving…she’s doing such an amazing job. We’re about two weeks into filming, and the movie’s going to be incredible.” If that’s the case, then great, but why are we talking about the nudity at all? Don’t worry, it gets better. Muldoon shows what deep thinkers they are over at Eclectic Pictures by saying, “thematically, it’s talking about how abusive the porn industry was to Linda Lovelace.” He then goes on to clarify, “yes, there’s a lot of nudity, but it’s a message movie about respecting women.” So in order to make a movie about the exploitation of women that goes on in the porn industry and to send a message about how we need to respect women, you’ve hired a hot young actress, paid her to be […]

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Of all the films being developed in the Hollywood-sphere right now, perhaps no other has more reasons to be excited about it than the upcoming, based-on-a-true-story shocker Freezing People is Easy. First off, it’s based on the life story of Robert Nelson, a man who spearheaded a movement in cryonics that saw several bodies being frozen back in the 60s, with disastrous results. Nelson’s story is darkly funny, shockingly grisly, and endlessly interesting due to its many twists and turns. It’s already been documented to great success in the man’s memoirs, “We Froze the First Man,” and also in a segment on the radio program This American Life entitled “Cold as Ice,” and it’s really a tale that everyone needs to hear. Secondly, the talent bringing this story into yet another medium, this time the big screen, is impressive. Freezing People is Easy is set to be the second dramatic work by famed documentarian Errol Morris (Tabloid), and it’s being shot from a screenplay that was written by Stranger Than Fiction’s Zach Helm. These are names whose next projects I would have been anticipating whether they were attached to a story I was already interested in or not. Throw them all together and there’s reason to celebrate. The third reason I’m looking forward to this one is how well the cast seems to be shaping up. It’s already been reported that Paul Rudd is attached to play Nelson as the lead, and now a report from Deadline Redondo Beach says […]

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There’s new movement over on Jake Scott’s upcoming Jeff Buckley biopic, which may or may not have been titled Mystery White Boy. We’ve already reported that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’s Reeve Carney is set to star as the indie rock legend, and now there’s word that Patricia Arquette has been signed to play Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert. The role is said to be a small one, but it sounds important nonetheless. Arquette will be seen both in flashbacks to when Buckley was a child and in later years when he was an adult. And apparently she plays an important role in convincing Buckley to appear during a 1991 tribute concert to his father, “Greetings From Tim Buckley,” which was considered to be Jeff’s first public performance and kind of the launching point for what became a very notable career.

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There are a couple biopics about famed porn actress Linda Lovelace in the works, so let’s not get confused. Lovelace isn’t the one that was supposed to star Lindsay Lohan but then picked up Malin Ackerman because Lindsay Lohan is Lindsay Lohan; that one is the Matthew Wilder-directed Inferno. Lovelace will be directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Howl), and has Amanda Seyfried replacing the originally-rumored Kate Hudson as the titular performer. I’ve seen these two movies have actors that are appearing in one being attributed to the other or downright get referenced as being the same film before, so I want to be clear. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at the casting news. Way back during this project’s humble beginnings, James Franco was rumored as being the choice to play Chuck Traynor, a pornographer and Lovelace’s longtime husband. That probably had something to do with his experience working with the directors in Howl. That bit of casting didn’t work out though, and the role eventually went to the equally-as-sleazy-as-Franco, Peter Sarsgaard (see An Education, yuck). Apparently that wasn’t the last of the Franco on Lovelace rumors, however, because Variety’s Showblitz is now reporting that the actor may be making a cameo in the film as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. That sounds like the sort of fun, low commitment gig that I could see Franco being into, so I’d say the chances of him appearing in this film are once again good.

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It’s been nearly five years since Wonder Boys and L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson released a feature, so fans of his work are presumably pretty primed and ready for his next movie Of Men and Mavericks to complete filming. On that front, fans of Hanson are in for some really bad news, which will then be tempered by a little bit of good news to ease the pain. The really bad news is that Hanson is experiencing some complications from his recent heart surgery and won’t be able to complete principal photography on the film, which is a biopic of big wave surfer Jay Moriarty. The better news is that Hanson already has most of the shooting done, in fact there is only two weeks left of scheduled filming to get in the can, so veteran director Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, The World is Not Enough) is going to step in and finish work on the film. Having a director stepping off of a shoot is usually a surefire way for a movie to get completely derailed, but with only fifteen days of shooting to go, it seems like Of Men and Mavericks will probably be able to make it to the finish line without being creatively compromised, especially with a guy behind the camera as experienced as Apted. I’m sure he will take every step possible to match what Hanson has been doing on the movie up until now. So fear not, Hanson fans, Of Men and […]

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Though she’s primarily known as an actress, Julie Delpy also has a bit of directing experience under her belt. Probably the best known film she’s stepped behind the camera on is 2007’s 2 Days in Paris, a romance where she herself starred opposite Adam Goldberg. Delpy has a sequel to that film in the pipeline, 2 Days in New York, where she will this time be having relationship troubles opposite Chris Rock. Yet before that film even gets a release, Delpy has already lined up her next project. Factor in recent reports that she’s been helping Richard Linklater with a new Before Sunrise sequel, and she seems to be becoming quite the prolific filmmaker. The new project that she’s got going is a proposed biopic of Clash frontman Joe Strummer. At one point in time, The Clash was about the biggest punk band in the world, but then Strummer suddenly stepped back from the spotlight in the early 80s and went into some minor seclusion. He remained fairly anonymous until his death in 2002, which came just a month before The Clash was going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That’s pretty ironic, if you’re like Alanis Morissette and don’t know what irony means. The title of the film, The Right Profile, comes from a track off of The Clash’s 1979 album “London Calling,” which if you hang around a record shop long enough, will eventually get recommended to you by someone working there.

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Is there really any doubt? With Meryl Streep‘s consistent successes and the added bonus of a win for The King’s Speech last year, all that The Iron Lady has to do is prove that it’s not a carbon copy with a female in the lead to make Academy voters happy. There’s a shot in the new UK trailer for the film where Streep, as former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, stands tall with her chest out and her chin held out in the air. It’s followed immediately by a somber shot where she hangs her head low while seated in the shadows. I can only assume that the film will focus on both aspects of her life, the trials and triumphs, the personal and the political. She’s joined by the brilliant Jim Broadbent, and the whole basket of crumpets was directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, Macbeth). It’s a gorgeous trailer. Check it out for yourself:

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Film fans already got a glimpse at the early days of The Beatles’ career with 1994’s Backbeat, a dramatization of their days working the club scene in Hamburg. Now there’s a new film in the works that is going to tell the story of their last days together as a band. Richard DiLello worked as a gofer for The Beatles’ late-career recording company, Apple Records, between 1968 and 1970, and his written account of his time there The Longest Cocktail Party is going to serve as the source material for the new film. During his time working at Apple, DiLello established personal relationships with each member of The Beatles, as well as their closest friends and family, and his book is told from his own perspective, watching this huge world crumble with outside eyes. The film version of The Longest Cocktail Party is being produced by a team consisting of Michael Winterbottom, Oasis’ Liam Gallagher, and Winterbottom’s longtime producing partner Andrew Eaton. The screenplay is being adapted by Four Lions writer Jesse Armstrong, and Winterbottom himself intends on directing. That makes perfect sense, as he already has experience directing a film called 24 Hour Party People, so The Longest Cocktail Party shouldn’t be much of a stretch. The biggest hurdles in the way of getting a film like this together are going to be affording the rights to enough of The Beatles’ catalogue to put together an appropriate soundtrack and finding the right actors to bring the iconic quartet to life. […]

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Frequent fright wig-wearing actor Johnny Depp is teaming up with Infinitum Nihil and Illumination Entertainment to produce a live-action look at the life of author Theodor Geisel. He was an eccentric type, given to talking in rhymes and working under pen names. Geisel started his career drawing advertisements and comic strips, he then later published legendary children’s books like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat.” He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and attended college at Dartmouth. Yikes, that doesn’t sound like a very exciting movie, even if the guy ends up going by a crazy name like Dr. Seuss. The concept gets a little bit more interesting though, with word that Depp is very likely to star in the film, along with his duties producing the project. He already has experience playing real life writers Hunter S. Thompson and J.M. Barrie, so it seems like the role would be right in his wheelhouse. And if scenes of him creating his most famous works are included in the film, complete with trippy visualizations of the things he’s writing about, then who better than Depp to put on ridiculous outfits and bring characters like The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat to life? And don’t say Jim Carrey and Mike Myers. Bad memories, man. [THR]

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Despite the fact that his most recent film War Horse has yet to even be released, talk about Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Abraham Lincoln biopic Lincoln has already started to increase. And, in my mind, that makes sense. Lincoln stars Daniel Day-Lewis as one of the most iconic historical figures that has ever existed. War Horse stars…a horse. In Monday’s edition of the Orlando Sentinel, they managed to get an interview with the legendary director, who spoke briefly on what his Lincoln pic would be about. According to Spielberg, “we’re basing it on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, ‘Team of Rivals,’ but we’re only focusing in on the last four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life.” That information helps add some context to another bit of Lincoln news that popped up today: Deadline Crawfordville’s report that Jackie Earle Haley has joined the cast in the role of Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens. We’re all used to seeing Haley play roles where he does things like brutally murder people or molest little children, so it’s easy to imagine that he’s been tapped to play Stephens because they’re portraying him as a contemptible racist in the film; but that might not end up being the case. Stephens is most famous for his Cornerstone Speech, in which he said that, “our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior […]

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In a story that contains several layers of film geek cool, Robert Downey Jr. and his wife Susan have teamed their production company Team Downey up with Warner Brothers to tell a story that’s inspired by an 11-year-old boy, who was inspired by a speech that Quint gave in Jaws, which was inspired by the sinking of a World War II warship named the USS Indianapolis. The boy’s name is Hunter Scott, and Warners recently picked up the rights to his life story which saw him going from a 1996 viewing of Jaws at 11 years old to testifying in front of congress in 2000 and getting some legislation passed. The sinking of The Indianapolis is a horrific story, and it needs somebody proven at writing about World War II era naval awesomeness to do it justice. To that end, the Downeys and company have tapped Robert Schenkkan for the adaptation. He got nominated for a writing Emmy for HBO’s The Pacific. So, yeah, guy knows his stuff. After being torpedoed, The Indianapolis sank over the course of five days as its crew was slaughtered and eaten by a group of bloodcrazy sharks. It’s a real life event that inspired this scene in Steven Spielberg’s shark horror Jaws:

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